There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger. The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. After discussing about Assamese and Bodo in the previous write-ups, today, we shift our focus towards the Kashmiri language or Koshur.
Popularly known as Koshur, the Kashmiri language has over 5 and a half million speakers in India, with most of them residing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The language is also spoken by over 1 lakh people in Pakistan, most of whom migrated to the country from the Kashmir valley. Kashmiri is one of the most prominent Dardic languages.
In fact, Sir George Abraham Grierson, the Irish civil servant who conducted the Linguistic Survey of India, famously wrote, “Kashmiri is the only one of the Dardic languages that has a literature”. He also said that the Kashmiri language is “an essential preliminary to any inquiry”.
Last year, with an aim to preserve Kashmiri language and culture, the Jammu Kashmir Cultural Confederation was formed after more than 50 small organizations carrying a similar aim came together. Well known poet and the Jnanpith award winner, Prof Rehman Rahi was appointed the chief patron of the confederation while acclaimed writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal came on board as the patron.
Kashmiri was first introduced as a medium of instruction in schools in the 1950s. But it was soon banished owing to an inelegant script. As a result, like most other regional languages in the country, Kashmiri has also witnessed a steep decline in popularity over the past several decades. To arrest the decreasing popularity, the state of J&K made the language a compulsory subject in all the schools of the state till the secondary level in November 2008.
Kashmir’s modern history has been burdened by conflicts. A number of locals in the state of J&K also accuse the central Government of neglecting the state’s indigenous culture. Maybe by helping in preserving Koshur and the Kashmiri culture in the state, the Government would be able to convince them that it wishes nothing but the best for them.
Mumbai, November 14: They are not-so-mute witnesses to history, clanging away at intervals of 15 minutes, as if asking us all to grab the moment because time was slipping by.
Perhaps in the daily, mad rush in Maximum City, not many Mumbaikars pay attention to the 16-odd time-keepers of the city, some of them centuries old. But they have seen dramatic changes as Mumbai evolved from a conglomeration of fishing villages into a burgeoning metropolis — a modern, global financial centre accommodating 17 million people that often appears to come asunder at its seams.
“I was once permitted to go up the tower to click Mumbai views, but came across a lot of dirt, pigeon droppings and even dead birds. If people are allowed to visit them regularly, maintenance will be better,” historian and archaeologist Mugdha Karnik told IANS.
He says Mumbai’s clock towers are an important aspect of any city’s history and should be more accessible to the masses, especially in Mumbai.
The most famous of the Mumbai’s Clock Towers is, of course, the Rajabai Clock Tower adorning the entrance of the University of Mumbai, which once played God Save The King and a Handel Symphony with 16 tunes that kept changing four times a day — now limited to chimes every quarter of an hour. But it still makes heads turn with people glancing at their own watches to match the time.
The iconic 280-feet tall structure, once visible from distances of 15 km, entered the 140th year of its existence in November. It has seen the reclamation of land beyond the present Oval Maidan, which pushed back the Arabian Sea by nearly 200 metres. Access to the top, which offered a panoramic view of Bombay, was stopped a few decades ago after it became a suicide point.
Other famous clock towers are at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Naval Dockyard, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, Crawford Market, St. Thomas Cathedral, BH Wadia in Fort, David Sassoon Library, Life Insurance Building Churchgate, the Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana gifted by the Moloo Brothers of Zanzibar — all in good working condition.
There is a Time Ball Building clock tower in the Mumbai Port Trust, which is not functional, another at Sasoon Docks Gate in Colaba, Lakshmi Insurance Building in Fort, Fulchand Nivas Building at Chowpatty, Mhatre Pen Building and Vijaynagar Building, both in Dadar to the north, and a few stray ones in other parts of Mumbai.
Avid clock tower lover, conservationist and historian Aadil Desai said the ones at CSMT, St. Thomas Cathedral built in 1718, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, David Sassoon Library, Naval Dockyard, BH Wadia and some others are very well-maintained and continue to grab attention.
“Several conservation activists regularly keep in touch with the owners of these premises on the status of the clock towers and they are very cooperative as it is a part of the city’s rich heritage and history. The Mumbai Port Trust is even considering setting up a museum at the site,” Desai said.
Every clock tower is unique, each having its own history and importance for the city, he said.
For instance, Rajabai Tower was financed by “Cotton King” Premchand Roychand, one of the original founders of the modern-day Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott on the lines of London’s Big Ben and built in nine years for what was then a staggering amount of Rs 550,000.
It is named after Roychand’s blind mother, Rajabai, who was a staunch Jain and needed to have her meals before dusk, and the clock chimes helped her do that without needing to depend on anyone.
The massive Mumbai’s clock towers above the CSMT — which was one of the sites targeted during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks — was built in 1888 by Sir Frederick William Stevens, inspired by the Victorian Gothic architecture of London’s St Pancras Railway station.
It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site and the imposing clock sees millions of commuters hurrying past daily or tourists gaping and photographing it. Recently, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has built a “selfie point” off the CST and the BMC headquarters to help people click pictures of the heritage precincts.
It was in the 1860s that Albert Abdul Sassoon, son of a Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, came upon the idea of settng up a good library in the heart of the city. It materialised in 1870 as the David Sassoon Library at Kala Ghoda, near the Jehangir Art Gallery.
It is built with yellow Malad stone, like the nearby Army & Navy Building, Elphinstone College and Watson’s Hotel, with a proud white stone bust of David Sassoon adorning the library entrance.
The Sassoon Docks, with a large clock tower, is one of the oldest fishing docks of Mumbai built on reclaimed lands in Colaba and constructed in 1875 by Albert Abdul Sassoon as a prime fish unloading and trading spot, which remains operational till date.
The Crawford Market, renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market, is a stone’s throw from the CSMT and opposite the Mumbai Police Headquarters.
Blending the Norman and Flemish architectural styles, the freizes at the entrance depict Indian farmers and fountains made of Kurla stone, designed by Lockwood Kipling, the father of the legendary novelist Rudyard Kipling.
The Time Ball Building clock tower at Mumbai Port Trust is just one of the two surviving — the second being in Kolkata — and among the handful in the world, like at Greenwich, UK. Desai says it is an important piece of historical heritage and must be protected.
Perhaps it’s time to step in and preserve the Mumbai’s Clock towers which may otherwise become the victims of, well, time. (IANS)
New Delhi, October 24: The center has appointed a new envoy to Kashmir in the hope of promoting peace in the troubled region.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh says former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma has been designated to open talks with Kashmir’s various factions – the first such appointment by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“As a representative of the government of India, … Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” Singh said in New Delhi.
Kashmir has been the center of a deadly tug-of-war between India and neighboring Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The Muslim-majority Himalayan territory is divided between the nuclear-armed rivals, but both claim Kashmir in full.
Kashmir rebels have battled Indian forces for decades, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan. The rebels have staged a series of attacks on Indian security bases in recent months, including an attack in southern Kashmir in August that left eight security officials dead.(VOA)